The Harvard University Boat Club’s senior class has been making it look easy for a while, but no one who knows the sport is falling for it. Rowing is considered to be a sport of attrition. By a class’s senior year, the story goes, the team of walk-ons will have just as many walk-offs. Apparently the Crimson heavyweights didn’t get that memo. The vast majority of the team’s original freshman class has stuck around for all four years, and as a fellow senior rower I can’t help but appreciate the determination of each and every member of that class, from the 1V standouts to the team’s 2F alumni.
But while it’s impressive, Harvard’s high return rate shouldn’t be considered especially surprising because it was clear pretty early on that this group was going to be something special.
The class had plenty of standouts who would earn success immediately in the first freshman eight. They came to Newell Boathouse having already earned national championships while competing for their high schools in both the United States and Great Britain. They’d represented junior national teams for the United States, Great Britain, and New Zealand. That eight didn’t waste time picking up speed and went undefeated in the dual season. When a talented Brown crew deprived the boat its Eastern Sprints title, the nine of them bounced back to take silver at the IRA National Championships.
It didn’t take long for the 1F athletes to make their impact known on the varsity level. Five of them—captain Mike DiSanto, Pat Lapage, Nick Jordan, Sam O’Connor, and Matt Edstein—earned seats in the varsity eight the following year with Lapage taking the prestigious stroke seat. That varsity eight would go on to complete the elusive “Sprints-Henley Double” with the Sprints victory avenging a dual season loss against—you guessed it—Brown. While O’Connor missed the following season with a dislocated shoulder, the other four won a second-straight Eastern Sprints title and took silver at the IRA National Championships. O’Connor would rejoin Edstein and Lapage in the 1V for its Championship Eight Head of the Charles victory.
Meanwhile, Elihu Reynolds has become a 2V stalwart and has a Sprints Championship and two IRA medals in tow.
“When our class first met Elihu, we thought he was a coach,” DiSanto said. “Everyone on the team loves him. He always comes down with a great attitude.”
Reynolds earned his second IRA medal, a silver at the 2011 championships, while rowing alongside former 1F teammate Jack Morrissey.
“Jack is probably one of the funniest guys on the team,” DiSanto said. “He’s quite the rower as well. He's really turned it one this year...I think he looks out for some of the sophomores."
Coxswain Alex Sopko, a Crimson sports editor, coxed Harvard’s second boat all fall and led the Crimson B four to a runner-up finish at the Tail of the Charles where it finished only 1.7 seconds behind the winning A four.
“She’s always someone you can talk to,” DiSanto said. “She puts such a positive spin on things. She’s like a caring mother figure.”
That’s the 1F’s story. Joining them at every step of the way has been a group of committed rowers who took bronze medals at Eastern Sprints as members of the 2009 second freshman eight. Some of them, such as Dave Paresky and Ed Winters-Ronaldson were successful high school rowers, while two, Andy Stein and Andrew Hamm, were in their first year rowing.
“As we’ve gotten older, they’ve been bigger contributors on the water,” DiSanto said. "They make the locker room fun. They bring a team dynamic to Newell...it's fun to be rowing with those guys, and it's fun to be around those guys."
Those rowers would go on to earn success in both the third and fourth varsity eights, and Stein would join the 1F alumni for a race at the Head of the Oklahoma.
Ultimately, it’s not the story of two boats but of a remarkably cohesive senior class and the kind of dynamic it has created.
“Our class made the boathouse fun,” DiSanto said. “Everyone’s focusing on what they need to do but at the same time having a good time.”
Whether in the locker room or on the race course, the senior class has been a model of work ethic, consistency, and team unity. And that’s been equally true at the 1V and 4V levels.
“It’s been a lot of fun being captain [but] to be completely honest, I don’t have to do too much because this team is so motivated and self-driven,” DiSanto said. “We have a pretty incredible senior class.”
—Staff writer Christina C. McClintock can be reached at email@example.com.